Ever since the announcement that MotoGP will return to 1000cc in 2012, a war has been brewing between Infront Motor Sports, the commercial rights holders for the World Superbike series, and the FIM and Dorna. IMS, in the person of Paolo Flammini, has threatened on several occasions to defend what they believe to be their exclusive right to organize production-based motorcycle racing against any move by the FIM - or rather, the Grand Prix Commission, in which the FIM, Dorna, the manufacturers' association MSMA and the teams' assocation IRTA all have a seat - to allow the use of production engines in the MotoGP class.
The FIM has come out clearly on the side of MotoGP, with Vito Ippolito stating clearly that the World Superbike contract does not pose an obstacle to the use of production engines in MotoGP. Ippolito's argument is that IMS' contract grants them the exclusive right to organize races for production motorcycles, not motorcycles using production engines.
Despite the fact that the proposal to return to a 1000cc capacity was made by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna have kept very quiet on the whole affair. Yesterday, however, in an interview with the Spanish website Motoworld.es, Ezpeleta spoke out to clarify Dorna's position, though he did so very carefully. He emphasized that he did not want to get into a war of words with IMS over the definition of a production engine. "Nowhere will we say anything about using production engines, nothing, nowhere." Ezpeleta told Motoworld.es. "Nor will we draw up a definition of whether an engine is a production engine or not."
It would be up to the manufacturers to decide what engine to use, Ezpeleta said. "Many of the manufacturers will use new engines, completely different engines, and others will race with engines which they produce and therefore belong to them, and which may or may not be based on a production engine." The only thing which had been decided was that the engines would be 1000cc and have four cylinders. "This was approved in Valencia," Ezpeleta told Motoworld. "The rest we still have to decide; what to do about the electronics, how many liters of fuel, how many engines per season, all of that."
By refusing to define production engines, Ezpeleta cleverly sidesteps any head-on attack by IMS. He is saying, in effect, that the manufacturers decide what production engines are, and leaving Infront to face the manufacturers, rather than the FIM and Dorna. IMS needs the manufacturers to continue, just as Dorna does, and so the Flamminis are unlikely to take on the MSMA.
There is a risk here, however. Ezpeleta says that the manufacturers can decide to use engines based on production units they make themselves. This would seem to prevent the satellite and privateer teams from doing what WCM did, which is take a standard street bike engine, and modify it (very heavily) to make it suitable for MotoGP. If the idea is to allow privateer teams to build their own engines cheaply, this will be very difficult without the support of the factories, if only in terms of obtaining their blessing to use a particular engine.
Ezpeleta was adamant about one thing: Even if MotoGP did allow the use of production engines, the series would never become like Moto2, with a spec engine. "Never, no way," Ezpeleta told Motoworld. But there was less good news for fans who blame electronics for the processional racing which MotoGP has seen in recent years. The electronics will not be limited, Ezpeleta said, because the manufacturers wanted to keep using them. The use of electronic rider aids is one area which is finding its way rapidly into street bikes, and the lessons learned are proving valuable for the manufacturers. However, Ezpeleta did express the expectation that electronics and rider aids would become less dominant, as the 1000cc bikes should not be as dependent upon them as the highly-strung 800s.
Whether Carmelo Ezpeleta's words are enough to placate Infront Motor Sports and the World Superbike series remains to be seen. The Grand Prix Commission is due to meet in Geneva on December 11th, where they will discuss the details of the proposals further. Ezpeleta promised that the technical regulations for the 2012 season would be published before the 2010 season started. That gives the Grand Prix Commission just 4 months to iron out the details.